April 2011 | www.selectasset.com
Disaster Relief

In light of the disaster in Northern Japan caused by last month’s earthquake and subsequent tsunami, this month’s article will focus on how you can help in terms of pinpointing and donating to a legitimate and reputable charity.

Unfortunately, the creation of fraudulent charity organizations following natural disasters is not all that uncommon.  Sadly, some people use such situations to take advantage of people who genuinely want to help.  Here are some tips to help you weed out the con artists:

  • Don’t respond to unsolicited emails asking for donations
  • Don’t agree to give a donation to a telemarketer, and never give your personal details over the telephone
  • Make sure that the charity’s website is legitimate.                                                                                                            Frequently, a fraudulent charity will create a website that is identical to that of an actual charity.  Make sure that the web address you have entered is correct (without misspellings and with the correct suffix in the domain name).
  • Avoid giving to newly created charities.                                                                                                                                 It takes time to set up a non-profit organization or charity legally.  Anyone claiming to have set up a charity in the days following a natural disaster is likely trying to pull a fast one over on you.

Just as you would want to be sure of the legitimacy of any organization to which you entrust your money, you should also do the proper research on any charity to which you intend to donate.  There are quite a few good ones out there.

According to the Charity Navigator website (www.charitynavigator.org), the following organizations are rated as 3 and 4 star charities who have responded to requests for information about how they plan to use funds in Japan: (this is not a complete list)

  • American Red Cross (www.redcross.org)                                                                                                                             According to their website, “Your gift to the American Red Cross will support our disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific. On those rare occasions when donations exceed American Red Cross expenses for a specific disaster, contributions are used to prepare for and serve victims of other disasters.”
  • ShelterBox (www.shelterbox.org                                                                                                                                      This is a U.K. based charity with 18 international affiliates.  They provide assistance by delivering utility boxes containing emergency relief tools to disaster stricken areas.
  • International Medical Corps (www.internationalmedicalcorps.org)                                                                               According to their website, they will, “focus their efforts on earthquake and tsunami affected communities that have not yet been reached. The team will also offer logistical support as needed to local authorities based on International Medical Corps’ experience in disaster response including following the 2004 Southeast Asian Tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Your gift will only be used to help the people of Japan recover from this emergency.”
  • GlobalGiving (www.globalgiving.org)                                                                                                                                GlobalGiving has started a Japan relief fund that will assist on-the-ground organizations providing emergency services to the disaster stricken zones.
  • Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (www.doctorswithoutborders.org                       Doctors Without Borders has been working in mobile clinics in Japan that are otherwise inaccessible due to damage.  Though they do not have a fund set up for Japan specifically, this is a highly reputable organization that requests unrestricted donations that can be used for disaster relief worldwide.

Please visit Charity Navigator for a complete list of tried and true charities to which you can safely donate.

In addition to donating to charities, many companies and artists have earmarked the proceeds of certain products sold for the Japan relief effort.  Lady Gaga has designed a bracelet, the sale of which generated USD 250,000 for the earthquake victims in just 48 hours.  The band Phish has released an album recorded in 1999 at the Fuji Rock Festival, and will donate 100% of the proceeds to Japan’s disaster relief via the organization Peace Winds Japan.  A quick Google search will direct you to many other such performers and companies that have similar plans for donating all, or a portion, of sales to Japan.

One further issue we would like to address is the tax implications of charitable donations.  Just as many countries allow you to deduct contributions to charities from their taxable income, Japan does as well.  If you are filing taxes in Japan, please note that you are able to deduct up to 25% of your income if it is used for “Designated Contributions” (Shitei Kifu), which include disaster relief and other special occasion contributions designated by the Japanese government.

Our hearts and thoughts are with everyone who has suffered, and continues to suffer, from the effects of the disaster on March 11.  We, at Select, look forward with hope for Japan’s recovery.